Iran demands Afghanistan block US drone flights

AP News
Posted: Dec 15, 2011 12:41 PM
Iran demands Afghanistan block US drone flights

Iran's foreign minister demanded Thursday that Afghanistan stop allowing the U.S. to use bases in the country to launch drone flights over Iran, the official IRNA news agency reported.

Iran has displayed a pilotless American aircraft it says was forced to land two weeks ago during a mission over Iran. The U.S. says it went down because of a malfunction.

"We have demanded the government of Afghanistan study the case seriously and not allow such an incident to happen anymore, otherwise it will be seen as an unfriendly act," Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said, according to the report.

He also urged all of Iran's neighbors not to allow the United States to "misuse" their lands and airspace.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Wednesday that the U.S. will continue the operations.

Speaking at a news conference with Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Panetta said the operations were part of U.S. efforts to defend both Afghanistan and the U.S. homeland and involve "important intelligence operations which we will continue to pursue."

Karzai, meanwhile, said Afghanistan doesn't want to be involved in any "adversarial relations" between the U.S. and Iran.

Earlier this week, Iran summoned an Afghan envoy to protest the violation of its airspace by the U.S. surveillance drone.

Iran has said the unmanned aircraft was detected over the eastern town of Kashmar, some 140 miles (225 kilometers) from the border with Afghanistan.

The RQ-170 Sentinel drone was lost over Iran two weeks ago. Iranian state television broadcast video of Iranians inspecting the aircraft, which was largely intact.

Iran has called the operation an "invasion and hostile act" and rejected a U.S. demand for returning the drone.